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Need help planning a trip to Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam

Need help planning a trip to Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam

Old Aug 17th, 2014, 06:48 AM
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Need help planning a trip to Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam

My husband and I plan to visit Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam in January 2015. We are thinking of traveling for 8-10 weeks. Can you advise a basic trip route for the 3 countries? In which country should we begin? Which cities should we fly in and out of? How long do you recommend we stay in each country? We prefer public transportation which requires more time. In addition to the main attractions in each country, we prefer to get off the beaten path..

This past February, we spent 9 weeks in India and Bhutan. We had some drivers in India, but mostly took trains from place to place. We interspersed smaller out of the way towns and villages with more touristy sites.
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 10:33 AM
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While I have been to all three countries, I can advise you best on Myanmar. I'd spend as much time as possible there, as it is a fascinating country that has only recently opened up more to foreign visitors. I would spend as much time as possible there - at least three sees since you plan on using public transport. Note that the roads are in poor to terrible condition, with a couple of notable exceptions. Also, train travel is slow and uncomfortable. Buses are both faster and more comfortable. To get to some places there is no option other than flying. You will want to fly into Yangon - lots of airline options, the most flights from Bangkok, but there are also flights from KL and Singapore. You will want some time in Yangon, just a few days most likely. Of the frequently visited places, Bagan and Inle Lake are the "wow" destinations. I'd spend at least four nights in each. Mandalay is not as interesting, but the ancient cities are worth a few days. Our favorite place near Mandalay was Sagaing. We also visited Mrauk U on our last trip. It was really an amazing place. You have to fly to Sittwe then take a boat to get there. It is off the beaten path. This is a trip that rewards good preparation. Read as much as you can about the country, and be aware that there is still a lot of old information out there. For cash transactions, you will want/need US dollars, all clean and crisp. There are now ATMs in the country that dispense kyat, the local currency. You can use this for most things, but many hotels and guesthouse still prefer dollars. Some hotels even accept credit cards now, though generally with a surcharge. Note that you are required to stay at places that have a government license to accommodate foreigners. This makes the "smaller out of the way towns and villages" more problematic.

I have two trip reports here, from 2009 and 2011. The money logistics info is out of date but the in of on sites is still good. Also, there are photos from both trips at www.marlandc.com

I will let other answer questions about Laos and VN.
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 11:14 PM
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I can't help with Burma but I have been to Vietnam and Laos many times and will be visiting both again later this year. How much time to spend in each country is a very subjective and depends largely on your interests and the comfort levels you would like. You could easily spend a month in each country.

I suppose the logical route for Vietnam /,Lao would be to start off by flying into Ho Chi Minh City spend a few days there and around the Mekong delta before heading north ( easily dome by Train). In Central Vietnam Hue and Hoi An are on the usual route. phong Nha Ke Bang NP may be worth a side trip if you are into caves. Buon Ma Thuot in the central highlands is a bit off track but good for visiting minority villages.

On to Hanoi, the city itself is one of my favourite cities in SEA. There is also a lot to see close by Halong. Bay, Mai Chau, Ninh Binh. Even further north is Sapa, great fro trekking and scenery ( we are also heading further north from there to Ha Giang on the Chinese border).

From Sapa, you could loop back down to Hanoi via Dien Bien Phu ( fascinating place if you are intersted in the history of the country ) , son La and Mai Chau and then fly to Lao from Hanoi. Alternatively it is possible to cross into Lao from DBP to Muang Khua using the Sop Hun/ Tay Trang border crossing.

With the time you have available, I would be inclined to spend longer in Northern Lao rather than spreading your self to thinly by including the south. Public transport is easier than it used to be but still a little challenging. Places that are on my list to return to are Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, Phongsali, Muang Ngoi. Nong Kiaw. Northern Lao is mostly about the beautiful scenery, minority peoples villages. A wonderful pc owner of the world. Travelling by boat is still possible and I would recommend this mode of travel if at all possible.

Luang Prabang odes get a lot of visitors these days but is still worth a few days and is the best place for onward flights. I am pretty sure it is not possible to enter Burma overland from Laos. The South of Laos is very different from the north. Happy to provide suggestions there if required.

I have always found that www.travelfish.org provides the most useful information on Lao and Vietnam.
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Old Sep 1st, 2014, 07:02 PM
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Kathy,
Thank you. Your answer to my questions were very helpful.Did you use a travel agent or did you book your own lodgings? Also, I am wondering if we have enough time to plan a trip for this January. It is only 4 months away.

Crellston,
I have the same questions for you regarding Laos and Vietnam. Thanks also for taking the time to answer my questions.
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Old Sep 1st, 2014, 10:53 PM
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It is very easy to book your own accomodation in Laos and Vietnam ( I think a lot easier than in Myanmar). www.booking.com is very good for sourcing hotels as is www.agoda.com although I usually find the former provides the best rates. We leave for Asia in mid December and I have just booked our first two hotels in KL and. Hanoi - I will almost certainly not book anything else and just find somewhere on arrival in each place. You have plenty of time to arrange this trip.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2014, 01:45 AM
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As time doesn't seem to be an object consider hiring a car/driver/guide in Myanmar. We did that in February 2010 for a fortnight. Three weeks would have been better, in order to loiter a bit more and have some chill-time.

But we got from Yangon to Bagan (via Bago and Taungoo), Mt Popa, Mandalay, Pwin oo Lyin, Kalaw, Inle Lake, and back to Yangon via Kalaw and Taungoo.

January is dry season, so all roads will be passable, although some will be slow going due to the physical state of the roads.

You'll see a lot more of the country that way, you can stop when you want, and where you want.

Hopping between points by air might be quicker, but you have to factor in time lost getting to and from airports, hanging round, possible delays, and also consider safety records.

Apart from our first 4 nights accommodation in Yangon, we booked nothing in advance. Arranging everything on the spot was easy, in fact the taxi driver who took us from the airport to our hotel in Yangon was the chap we employed for our two weeks on the road.

In Yangon we stayed at the comfortable Summit Parkview Hotel, which is the closest hotel to Shwedagon Pagoda. The Art Galley attached to the hotel was the best place in town to change you crisp and mint condition US$.

All other accommodation was arranged for us by our driver/guide. He spoke perfect English, was a Physics Graduate, with a wife who had a Masters. But the only work he could get was driving/guiding, and his wife as a seamstress. His knowledge of Myanmar was excellent, our safety was his main priority, and he soon became our friend.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2014, 02:10 AM
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Laos is an easy county to travel around, especially if you keep to 'beaten track'. Side-trips from the major points are easy to arrange.

We travelled by overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Nong Khai. Nong Khai sits on the banks of The Meekong River. The border crossing at The Friendship Bridge is at Nong Khai. Once over the border it's a short distance by tuk tuk or taxi to Vientiane.

We took the opportunity to stop over in Nong Khai for a few nights, and thoroughly enjoyed the laid back vibe. We stayed at The Mutmee, and thoroughly recommend it...

http://www.mutmee.com/

Our route was...

- Vientiane. A few interesting sights like the Arc d'Triomphe, an a couple of 'raw' markets. But it's a sleepy place without not a right lot going on after dark.

- Bus (4 hours) to Vang Vieng

- Vang Vieng. Beautiful countryside, ideal to rent a pushbike, explore, and chill for a couple of days.

- Bus (6-7 hours) to Luang Prabang. Glorious scenery all the way on the bus.

- Luang Prabang for a week. Plenty to do and see. The place comes to life at dusk onwards, so staying in or close to the town centre is probably a good idea.

- Flew out to Chiang Mai. I'd have prefeered to take the slow boat (2 days/1 night) to Huay Xai, but I had a sore back.

Like Crellston, we use Booking.com and Agoda a lot for comparing and booking accommodation. I'd definitely book Vientiane and Luang Prabang in advance. The Mutmee at Nong Khai also fill up quickly, and a lot of people stay longer than they first intended.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2014, 02:26 AM
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For what is's worth here's a review I posted on Trip Advisor for the Summit Parkview Hotel in Yangon...

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUse...on_Region.html
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Old Sep 2nd, 2014, 05:56 AM
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We used an agent to book our lodgings and flights. Local agents can often get you better prices than you can get on the web. Since Myanmar opened up more to foreign visitors, there has not been enough accommodation readily available, so booking ahead makes sense, especially since you are traveling during high season. We used Santa Maria in Yangon, but there are lots of reputable agents in Yangon. If you have the time to go in January, start arranging it now. I think it is certainly possible to do, but you will have to be flexible.

Hiring a car and driver is a fine idea if you want to take the time, but prices for this have increased tremendously as the price of gasoline has gotten so high.

Do not change money anywhere other than a bank exchange window (at airports and in cities). While it used to be that one needed to change money at stores or markets, now the bank exchanges give you the best rates.

Let me know if there are other questions I can answer.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2014, 12:04 PM
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Hint, when u get into a taxi always write down the Drivers ID info.In case u have a problem
Such as leaving something in the cab.I did last Feb, didn't have any info to give police
So, I lost my new Cannon 35mm. With months of photos.
If I would of only had his ID number!!
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